So we’d mastered baby massage. Actually, master might be the wrong word. We’d attended all six sessions. We’d fulfilled our financial obligation. Sam had chosen to wake up at certain points but, after a few minutes of me tunelessly singing inane nursery rhymes whilst grinning stupidly at him, he soon chose to fall back to sleep. So you’re thinking baby massage had been a success? I had a contented baby who slept at the drop of a hat? No I did not. When I finally found time at home to do some massage with him, I was too stressed thinking of all the jobs I could be doing or the crisps I could be eating. My massage techniques were so rough, if anything, I overstimulated him up to the point he couldn’t sleep and I refused point blank to sing any more renditions of Tommy Thumb. R Kelly’s ‘Remix to the Ignition’ had put him to sleep successfully since the day he was born so why change? Given ensuing revelations, maybe not the best choice of lullabies!
We proceeded onto baby yoga next. I’d negotiated leaving the house and still hadn’t made those life long friends, so I thought I’d persist. But now when I say those two words next to each other, I wonder what the hell was I thinking? Babies and yoga?! I can’t remember why I thought this would be a good idea nor can I recall anything about baby yoga. I went. I moved Sam’s limbs. I paid a lot of money for the privilege. But any funny anecdotes? Rien. Nichts. Nada.
I did subsequently take Joel to baby massage but I think that was more my desire to have a break from the hoover-obsessed toddler Sam who daily created a variety of biscuit messes so we would have to ‘oova’. I can’t even remember if I took Abigail. I can well imagine I would have wanted a break from Joel at that point in his crazy life but my memory fails me yet again. However, given baby Abigail’s propensity to break wind long and deep at every opportunity, I probably decided to stay at home with the feral Joel to save myself much embarrassment
Before long, Sam was 4 months old and had finished his initial course of injections. It was then the health visitor suggested the next activity in Sam’s ever busy social life. “He can go swimming now.” Oh, how utterly adorable would that be?! My little baby splashing around in a pool, trapped in some oversized inflatable device, cooing and gurgling, showing the world what a contented cherub he was (thanks to good old baby massage of course!). And this would also involve purchasing items; spending money was something I had grown to love during my maternity leave, ironically when my pay was as its lowest! He would need swim nappies, a colourful pair of trunks, toys, a cute towel with a hood, a swim bag to house all this nonsense plus the aforementioned giant inflatable which would save him from drowning, or more importantly, provide our arms with some respite from holding him far enough away from the dangers and perils that lurked beneath the seemingly chlorine cleaned baby pool. It all sounded so easy. But first you have to negotiate the logistical nightmare of taking a baby swimming. It’s tantamount to stars aligning. For this to happen, the baby’s stomach has to be consulted. Firstly, it can neither be too full nor approaching empty. Too empty and the baby will somehow acquire enough energy to scream down the building despite the fact that their fuel reserves are evidently depleted! Neither can the large intestine be too full so that, on submerging infant into the wee infested water, the baby proceeds to turn it instantly into a milky white ocean. Secondly, the infant has to be fully rested. He needs maximum energy reserves to benefit in full from this experience. After all, he may be swimming the odd width by the end of the session. (Remember all those high hopes you had for your children when they were babies?) And finally, the swimming pool needs to be open. So once his stomach levels had been checked, his energy reserves measured, the timetable consulted and his newly acquired supplies packed, we could go!
About two weeks later, after numerous false starts, we arrived. As did lots of the other parents with babies who stupidly thought this was a good idea. It is at this moment you enter the baby changing room for the first time. And you are shocked to your very core. You’ve spent the last four months of your life disinfecting everyone and everything in your house to the point of obliteration. You’re so obsessed with the 0.1% of bacteria that Dettol can’t eliminate that it keeps you awake at night, which is ironic as the baby has just started to sleep through! And now you find yourself in a room specially designed for babies which houses enough dirt and germs to annihilate an entire country! But you persist because it’s taken the same amount of planning as a military operation to get to this point. So while the husband practises breathing in to make himself appear trimmer in the changing rooms next door, you’re left with the Krypton Factor challenge of preparing both yourself and your baby to enter the swimming arena. (Common sense has never been one of my strong points. I assumed for years that the water for my windscreen was topped up when it rained!) So am I already wearing my swimming costume under my clothes? No. Is Sam already dressed in his swim nappy and trunks? No. Have I blown up the giant inflatable flotation device so it is cumbersome and difficult to carry along with baby and his Santa sack laden with toys? Yes.
After meticulously cleaning the baby changing board several times and protecting the surface with towels washed at 90 degrees, Sam was dressed and strapped to it like some Victorian operating table. I then dressed myself with one hand as I was still unable to take my remaining hand off Sam in case by some chance, the strap holding him in place freakishly frayed and broke apart or Whitehaven experienced a magnitude 8.1 earthquake causing the baby changing unit to detach itself from the wall. But we both survived and Lindsay the Sherpa once again set off, ready for this new adventure.
One of the only good things about the baby pool is that the water is generally warmer. It’s basically an oversized bath. There isn’t that unbearable, piercing pain as your nether regions submerge beneath the water. And so the excitement began. Sam was lowered into his aqua vehicle and we were all set to go. I’m not quite sure what I expected to happen. Sam just sat. He looked around but his expression remained unimpressed. We handed him toys which he was too young to grasp. We encouraged him to kick in a language he didn’t yet understand. We excitedly splashed water which repeatedly near blinded him. We looked like those utter fools we’d always frowned upon! So all that was left to do was push him around. We took turns walking round, manoeuvring around the water car park, avoiding a range of yellow air filled taxis whilst observing other youngsters looking equally puzzled as to why bath time had suddenly become a public event!! So after 15 minutes of utter disinterest and apathy from Sam, we left the pool, hoping we’d stayed long enough to look like devoted parents. And I re-entered the changing rooms to repeat the whole process but in reverse – cold, wet and with a baby now coated with some invisible lubricant that made him impossible to handle! Who had suggested this again?!